The Book

Playboys_Host_and_Bar_BookOften on the show when we’re doing a drink recipe, you’ll hear DJ Skunkie or myself mention “The Book.”

So what is this mysterious tome which apparently contains all knowledge of alcohol? Is it some ancient scroll, covered in heiroglyphs from an ancient and unknown tongue? Is it a lost relic from another world? Is it an infinite database stored on a top-secret server unreachable via any known web address?

Nope. It’s Playboy’s Host and Bar Book, written by Thomas Mario and published in 1971.

So why do we refer to it as “The Book“? Because it is quite simply the absolutely indispensable best reference guide for anyone who enjoys alcohol for more than just getting drunk.

Yes, at the time of this post, The Book is 43 years old. But don’t let that fool you. It is still just as relevant as the day Saint Mario first started writing the introductory page. Times and tastes may change, as well as brands and flavors of alcohol, but the basics will always remain the same, and this mighty tome explains those basics in such a way that a half-blind syphilitic Republican ocelot could understand.

Between the covers of this hefty volume (it is always a hardback book, a paperback has never been printed) are 339 pages full of not just the A – Z recipes you expect in a book about alcohol and tending bar, but the very history of alcohol. Starting back at the very dawn of time, when the first Neanderthal discovered the effects of fermented fruit all the way through to the more esoteric base spirits, The Book covers them all.

I know quite a few bartenders, from my time working the rag and the stick. And I can honestly say, any bartender worth his or her rail not only keeps a copy of The Book under the bar, but has another copy at their home.

Playboys_Bar_GuideThe REALLY good bartenders have the companion volume, Playboy’s Bar Guide, nearby as well. While nowhere near as comprehensive as The Book, it is great as a “quick reference” for those just learning the trade.

One very important note if you decide to procure either (or both!) of these precious volumes for yourself. Make absolutely certain that you are getting the original 1971 First Printing Edition. Several later editions have been printed, all with fewer pages, and less of the history recorded in the First Edition.

Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

Glassware Manifesto

So you want to throw a classy party, but all the glassware you have is a few mis-matched glasses, and a couple of dozen Christmas-themed coffee mugs (where do those things come from anyway?).

Time to break out the credit card and buy that big-ass set of glassware that you’ll end up using most of maybe twice before they start getting broken, right?

WRONG!

You can get by just fine with just 4 types of glassware, and it doesn’t need to break the bank either!

The four types you should have on hand are:

  • A “lowball” or “Old Fashioned” glass (6-8 ounces)
  • A “highball” or “Collins” glass (8-12 ounces)
  • A stemmed “wine” or “parfait” glass (4-6 ounces)
  • A “shot” glass (1.5-2 ounces)

Depending on the size and frequency of your party, your glass cabinet should have between four and eight of each of those. Do it right, and the total cost will be somewhere between $5 and $20, tops.

Now before you start sending me hate mail, and shouting ouside my window that I’m wrong, and going on about your 17th century Glencairn glasses, your margarita glasses, your stemless wine glasses, and your Brandy snifters, remember: We’re talking about how to go Classy on a Budget here. This post is aiming to get you through a decent party (no red Solo cups!) without spending a few hundred dollars on glassware that will just take up space in your cabinet for years on end, and without looking like utter crap.

I’m not saying don’t buy those (in fact, I have a lovely set of crystal cordial glasses I break out from time to time). I’m saying that there’s a time and place for them. And baby, this ain’t the time or place.

Now with that out of the way, back to the main focus of this post: Building your party collection on a budget.

As I’d mentioned, you just need those four basic types, and (depending on the number of guests you’re having over) four to eight of each one.

So where do you get them so cheaply? Check out your local “nothing over a dollar” type store! The best one I’ve found is Dollar Tree, and odds are good there’s one just down the street from you!

Yes, you heard me right. Dollar Tree is a damn wonderful place to buy REAL glassware on a budget. Just browse their site, and you’ll see what I mean.

Of course, they say all their glassware is “famous maker” or “famous brand,” but we all know it’s really just overstocks from Libbey. Which is fantastic, because that means you aren’t paying through the nose for it.

Now here’s the real kicker. Getting that wonderful glassware at $1 per piece is one thing. But here’s what I do, and every one of my parties is a hit with it.

Don’t buy glass glassware for your party.

You heard me. Go on, tell me I’m insane (I hear that enough from my friends, but they love my parties anyway). But if you’re wanting to throw a cocktail party that’s Classy but have a budget based on the change in your couch, skip the real glass, and go for the plastic-ware. Plastic can still look classy, you know. After all, at a decent cocktail party, it’s what’s IN the glass that your guests are interested in, not the glass itself.

So we have the 4 types of glassware figured out. Here’s what I buy at Dollar Tree:


Lowball
Lowball/Old Fashioned Glass. 10 of these for $1.

Water
Highball/Collins Glass. 5 for $1. These are a bit short, but work beautifully.

Stem
Stemmed Glass. 6 for $1.

And my personal favorite:
Shot
Shot Glass. 24 for $1. I keep a hundred or so of these around because they’re so handy!

If you (for whatever reason) don’t want to go with the plastic-ware, by all means buy real glass glassware. But don’t buy expensive glassware. Yes it looks beautiful, but odds are damn good that a glass is going to get broken, no matter how careful you are. And when that happens, buying a set from a place like Dollar Tree is much better than buying an expensive nigh-irreplaceable set. After all, you can always pop back down to Dollar Tree and pick up a replacement glass.

(Dollar Tree had no direct involvement in this post, and did not compensate me in any way to write it.)